A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend the CALDER Center’s annual value-added conference. For those of you who are not aware of CALDER, it is a group of some of the most respected academic researchers from around the country now housed at the American Institutes of Research (AIR) who conduct high quality studies on what impacts student achievement. While CALDER’s work typically focuses on teachers, this year’s conference highlighted research on the impact of principals on student achievement as well, where researchers provided evidence that principals too have a significant impact on their students’ achievement.
Measuring the impact principals have on student achievement is relatively new in research. It is actually a topic I’ve been quite interested in since I was in graduate school. Having done some qualitative research on the topic back then I was quite certain that principals made an impact but didn’t know exactly know how much of an impact or what caused the impact. There was little research on the topic at the time, but over the decade since, there have been numerous studies focused on principals. I’ve been taking a close look at that research and putting together a report on what they have been finding about the impact of principals on student outcomes. It’s been fascinating research and I look forward to sharing the report with you later this spring. But for now, I can tell you that principals are incredibly important, especially for students in our most challenging schools. My hope when the report comes out is that policymakers pay more attention to how we recruit, train, and retain principals. By doing so, they could have a greater impact than any other reform model. You decide for yourself this spring. – Jim Hull